Discussion: Indie Books We Recommend

May 20, 2014 2014, discussion post, tonya 52

indie book recs

With the ease and accessibility of self-publishing these days, the choices for indie books seem endless, and the recent indie-to-best-seller breakouts are proof enough that there is true talent in the teeming pool of indie authors. No longer is the digital realm to be considered a last ditch publishing effort; it’s now often a deliberate and very successful choice.

But how do you know which books are worth your time, without the benefit of professional cover designers to catch your eye on the digital shelf, copyeditors to fix those stray typos, or marketing campaigns to create buzz? Word of mouth.

And that’s where we come in.

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Kim’s Indie Recs

I regret to say I haven’t read too many indie titles but I do have a couple gems to report!

andallthestarscoverAnd All the Stars by Andrea K. Höst is exactly the sort of alien invasion story I’m after. A huge survivalist element, aliens that terrify me, humans amped up with powers, and a central mystery that unfolds layer by layer. I loved the ensemble cast full of unique and interesting characters. I loved that Madeleine was stand-offish and found it hard to connect with other people. I find it so rare that female characters are “allowed” to be like that so I am especially pleased when it happens. I loved the subtle build up to what came to be an incredibly poignant and unexpectedly bittersweet romance. It’s simply one of the best post-apocalyptic/alien invasion stories I’ve ever read. And this book was so diverse! There were plenty of non-white characters and queer characters. Awesome.


thorncoverIntisar Khanani’s Thorn was the most pleasant surprise I came across in my indie readathon! A fantasy retelling of the classic fairy tale The Goose Girl full of heart, intrigue, and some seriously marvelous writing. I was wholly absorbed from the first page. Khanani effortlessly builds up her world and characters with a deft hand. There is much depth, character growth, magic, mystery, a surprising philosophical bent, anda seriously swoon worthy slow burn romance. It’s also chock full of non-white characters. Hooray! A stunning tale of self discovery. Wholeheartedly recommended.



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Wendy’s Indie Recs

I really like that we’re in this era of digital publishing. Cutting through red tape and traditional publishing schedules means that we sometimes find gems in the most unexpected places. Like all other categories, you have to wade through a lot of books to get to the good ones, but the excitement of finding a great talent makes the search worthwhile.
We know the ones that are the big self-pubbed-to-traditional-pub success stories, like Angelfall or Easy or The Sea of Tranquility or Unteachable, but here are some others I think are worth checking out and are still truly indie. Hats off to authors who are forging their own paths!
YA Science Fiction

andallthestarscoverAnd All the Stars by Andrea K. Höst

I have to confess I read this book last year and LOVED it (and not just because the book was partially inspired by a conversation I had with someone else), and the ending touched me so much that I still haven’t found the right words for a review. This post-apocalyptic scifi tale surprised me with thoughtful science, unexpected twists, and a subtle yet great depth of feeling. When I met up with the author a couple of years ago in Australia, she told me she has no interest in pursuing traditional publishing, but of all the indie authors I’ve read, I think her brilliant stories are the most original and well thought out.


YA Contemporary

perf5.250x8.000.inddV is for Virgin by Kelly Oram
After Val gets dumped, she says she’s going to stay a virgin until she gets married. But her remarks land her in a whirlwind of unexpected attention and uncomfortable (but funny!) situations. This book was so fun and fluffy, while exploring the not-so-common choice to stay chaste, which is not something we see too often in YA. I also liked Serial Hottie from the same author, although that was a bit more uneven and had some borderline not-okay scenarios. An author with a lot of promise, though; I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets picked up by a publisher at some point. It’d be interesting to see what she turns out if she has a chance to work with a seasoned editor.


New Adult
One place where indie books have really shone recently is in New Adult books. I used to be so suspicious of NA, but I’ve come around to seeing the possibilities for this category.

photo1 (2)One & Only by Viv Daniels
This smart, sexy romance is like a really great episode of Felicity–and it happens to be written and self-published by Diana Peterfreund under a pseudonym! I’m really excited about the sequel, which comes out sometime this year.

Pretty When She Dies by Rhiannon Frater
This is kind of a weird pick because it’s a really good example of a self-published book. It’s a bit meandering and unpolished, and the story and characters could use some beefing up; but wow, is the gory horror and sexual chemistry intense!

Double Clutch by Liz Reinhardt
This was the first NA book I ever enjoyed. It’s sweet and explores teen sexuality in an honest way, and one of the love interests (yes, I’m afraid there is a love triangle) has a very Tucker-like quality.

 Adult PNR

10779905Demons of Oblivion series by Skyla Dawn Cameron

Zara Lain is a vampire assassin who also happens to be a bitch–and she makes no apologies for it. This is not your typical “I’m a badass but I also have a soft side” pretense, she really IS a stone cold bitch, and I love her for it! That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have feelings, of course, and it’s been crazy watching her story develop–like that thing where Rose tries to do that thing to Dimitri on the bridge type of crazy. I’m not sure when the next book will be out, since everything is dependent on sales, but I need to know Zara will be okay. Pleeeeease get on it, Ms. Cameron! And urban fantasy/PNR fans, if you enjoy butt-kicking heroines similar to  Kate Daniels or Merit, I just know you’re going to love Zara Lain.



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We hope you’ll add some of these lesser-known indie treasures to your TBR, if they aren’t already on your radar. What indie books do you recommend?

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52 Responses to “Discussion: Indie Books We Recommend”

  1. Emma

    I’ll have to check out some of these books on Goodreads. Thorn in particular sounds interesting.

  2. Brittany T

    I just purchased Thorn last week. Is it bad that I don’t even notice if the book is Indie published or not. I am a total cover sucker so that’s usually what grabs me first then maybe the author. I’ll check the rest of these out for sure.
    Ps: got a lovely sci-fi package from Wendy Darling today and will be posting pics on twitter and my blog soon. I definitely sqeee’d at the mailman when he gave it to me :-)
    Brittany T recently posted…Under Construction

  3. Priscilla

    “No longer is the digital realm to be considered a last ditch publishing effort; it’s now often a deliberate and very successful choice.”

    So true! Andy Weir is one such example. I’ve never heard of the abovementioned books, so I’ll definitely check them out.
    Priscilla recently posted…Unfaithfully Yours by Chrystal Rose

  4. A Canadian Girl

    I very rarely read indie books but I’ve heard good things about And All The Stars so I may check that one out in the future. The book that really caught my eye though was One and Only because Wendy mentioned that it’s written by Diana Peterfreund. I loved For Darkness Shows the Stars!
    A Canadian Girl recently posted…Review: Plus One by Elizabeth Fama

  5. Kagama

    Hello :)

    Here are some of my indie treasures I found.

    Brood of Bones by A.E. Marling (+the rest in the series. On book 4!)
    Sleepless by Sera Ashling
    Dark Angel by TJ Bennett
    A curse for Gracey Daylittle by Amber Fish
    Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani
    Miss Landon and Aubranael by Charlotte E. English
    Kagama recently posted…video

  6. Melanie (YA Midnight Reads)

    So I haven’t read, or even heard of these books *guilty look* BUT All The Stars looks great and the fact that two of you had it on your rec list is saying something!

    Lovely list and thanks for sharing! <33

  7. Jasprit

    Wendy I remember quite a lot of interest in And All the Stars after you read it, I like how the author decided to write it after your conversation with somebody else! I’ve also had a copy of Double Clutch for the longest time, but just not got around to reading it, but I’ve always been a huge fan of Tucker, so can’t wait to meet a similar character to him!
    Jasprit recently posted…Review: Sun-Kissed by Laura Florand

  8. Natalie Crown

    This is an awesome post and I’m coming at it from two angles!

    As a beginner indie author myself it’s nice to see that people are checking indie books out.

    But from the perspective of a reader…there are so many indie books! It is overwhelming, particularly because 9 times out of ten I stop reading after the first few chapters. Sorting the decent from the terrible is a tough old job, so it’s great to see some recommendations! I’m absolutely behind supporting indie authors (obviously) but I fail at it because there is just SO MUCH OUT THERE. I must do better.

  9. Olivia Ngai

    Ahh, ever since I saw the cover for Thorn, I’ve been wanting to get my hands on it!
    Is that bad? Don’t judge a book by its cover and all that? But… it’s so pretty! Seeing it on here just reminded me of how much I wanted to read it, so thanks!
    Olivia Ngai recently posted…Timeline by Michael Crichton

  10. fishgirl182

    Thanks for this post. I am going to put some of these on my Goodreads shelf right now. I have to say that I rarely read indie books. I think it’s mostly because of the covers though. If it has a cheesy cover and I know nothing about it or the author, then I am much less willing to try it. Bad I know. But thanks for this. I am going to buy Host’s book right now. And she’s not really an indie author (since she has put out books by traditional pubs) but historical romance writer Courtney Milan self pubs a lot of her books and they are all excellent.
    fishgirl182 recently posted…Trailer: Kingsman: The Secret Service

  11. Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

    OK, you’ve sold me on Andrea Host’s book. I will go buy it now!

    I also recommend Karen Amanda Hooper’s Grasping at Eternity, which takes on reincarnation in a YA book that appealed to this middle-aged reader. Well-written and well-edited; I didn’t realize it was an indie/self-pubbed book until I went looking for the sequel. (I haven’t read the sequels yet, so I can’t recommend the whole series, but if they’re as good as the first, I’ll be happy.)
    Lark @ The Bookwyrm’s Hoard recently posted…Top Ten Books About Friendship

    • Wendy Darling

      *fist bumps Kim* WE HAVE DONE OUR JOBS. :D I hope you enjoy AND ALL THE STARS as much as we did, Lark! It’s such a bargain, too.

      Huh, reincarnation–we don’t see a whole lot of that, so I’m curious to see how that would be handled. That’s a good sign that you didn’t realize it was self-pubbed until you looked into it deeper, too. :) Thanks for adding to our TBR lists!

  12. Anya

    I adore Tammy Blackwell’s YA paranormal series, where Destiny Binds is the first book. Her writing is so sharp and entertaining while making some really great teen characters and adding a fresh spin to the paranormal tropes. I was amazed when I found out she was indie because her writing is so strong! I really liked And All the Stars too, I need to read the rest of her backlist still, have either of you read her other book?
    Anya recently posted…Ten SF/F Books With Awesome Friendships

    • Wendy Darling

      That is one of the BEST feelings–when you read a book you love and then find out it was self-pubbed! I’m always a little incredulous, like WHY hasn’t this book been picked up by an agent/publisher? I feel that way about just about all the books on my list. DESTINY BINDS sounds great, thanks for the rec!

      And I’ve only read Andrea Host’s STRAY, the first book in her Touchstone series. I really, really enjoyed that one–it is bursting at the seams with cool ideas, and I love the survival aspects of the story. I need to read her backlist as well–but I’m glad to see a fellow AATS fan!

  13. Pili

    All The Stars is on my TBR wish list! Some Indie books that I’ve absolutely adored are Solving for Ex, One & Two by LeighAnn Kopans, ParaWars by Cait Greer and Ultraviolet Catastrophe & The Star Thief by Jamie Grey!
    Pili recently posted…Nerd Blast: The Art Of Lainey!!

    • Wendy Darling

      I haven’t read any of the books you listed, Pili…where have I been? o.O Thanks for those, I’ll have to check them out on GoodReads!

      And yes, please give AND ALL THE STARS a go. I wish I could hand that book to all scifi fans.

  14. Mary @ BookSwarm

    With both of you recommending And All the Stars by Andrea K. Höst and that gorgeous cover for Intisar Khanani’s Thorn, I might have to break my self-pubbed ban and check these two books out! (I’ve had some REALLY bad self-pub experiences, several with the authors themselves, and shy very far away from them now. I feel bad about it but posts like this help me dip my toe back in the mix.)
    Mary @ BookSwarm recently posted…Top Off Tuesday: Bacon, Bacon! Who’s Got the Bacon?

    • Wendy Darling

      Aw yeah, please do give Andrea’s book a try sometime. It’s only $4.99 for Kindle, or less than $9 for a slim Amazon paperback.

      I would like to try THORN, too! I hadn’t even heard of it until I saw Kim’s piece, but the ratings on GoodReads are pretty high.

      And yeah, I’ve seen excruciating self-published author behavior, and have certainly had my own distasteful experiences with that myself. But I’ve seen that from traditionally published authors and their cohorts as well, so. I know it’s hard, though–it’s always extremely risky these days after you’ve seen so many bloggers burned.

      I’m glad we’ve persuaded you to give some of these a chance, though. AND OH MARY, have you read Skyla Dawn Cameron? I loooove her books and I think you would, too. Kate sped through them all as well, and we agreed she needs as much support as she can get.

    • Kim

      Yeah, I’ve tended to shy away from indies because it’s more of a gamble going into a book without any friend reviews to help me! I feel like I’ve just seen over and over again that some indie books can have unreliable/biased ratings and it just puts me off the whole thing. I’m a fairly slow reader so I want to know that book time is not being wasted, you know? So I’m so grateful for Wendy’s recs as well as everyone else’s in the comments! I’m really excited about Bloodlines. I agree with Wendy. It seems right up your alley too!
      Kim recently posted…Guy in Real Life: Review

  15. Janice

    Looked up All the Stars by Andrea K. Höst on Amazon and started reading it. Thanks for the recs! I love reading books that not too many other people have read already because then they’re not hyped up for me.
    Janice recently posted…Has this ever happened to you?

    • Wendy Darling

      YES YES YES. I’m so glad you got a copy! It’s a lovely, lovely book and I hope more people find their way to it.

      What you said about the lack of hype resonates for me in a big way. I try to read in as much of a bubble as I can so I’m not influenced (even unconsicously) by other people’s opinions, but it can be really hard. The thrill of discovery is also so nice, isn’t it? Not just in finding out for yourself a story/relationship/themes as the author meant you to, but also in finding a great book that you didn’t necessarily expect. It’s kind of a like hunting for treasure in used bookstores: you’re either a secondhand bookstore person who’s open to being surprised, or you’re not.

      • janice

        YES, it’s exactly the thrill of discovery that makes it so satisfying, you hit it right on the head!

        Also, thanks for recommending All the Stars! I enjoyed it very much! I wrote about it to Kim below.
        janice recently posted…My Mei

      • janice

        I just finished All the Stars and wow, SUCH a different book. I sped through the whole thing. The book has a very film-like narrative quality to it, with the way some events are told. Thanks for the rec, I enjoyed the story very much!
        janice recently posted…My Mei

        • janice

          Also, what you said about the cast of characters and the diversity is so spot on! I enjoyed that there was a wide spectrum of characters and it was NBD. SO REFRESHING! I think it was a huge component of why I enjoyed reading this book.
          janice recently posted…My Mei

        • Wendy Darling

          Aw, Janice! I’m so happy you enjoyed AND ALL THE STARS. I totally agree with your observation about the film-like narrative quality, it’s such an unusual tone for scifi, and one I very much enjoyed. Thanks for letting us know you liked it!

          And hey, did you notice the dedication…? :D

  16. Librarian Lavender

    Thank you for recommendations. There are so many indie books and I never really know how to find a good one, but sometimes I stumble upon something really great. I’m certainly going to check out the books you’ve mentioned!
    Librarian Lavender recently posted…A Very Warm School Day!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, our pleasure! You know, when I first got my Kindle a few years ago, I read a lot of indie books (the lure of the 99 cent special was pretty hard to resist for a newbie, hah), but it really is so hard to find the good ones. Most of the ones I tried, especially in the earlier days, were pretty horrific, but every once in awhile you’ll come across one that transcends the stereotype and really sticks with you.

  17. Shannelle C.

    And All the Stars definitely looks very interesting! The fact that it was recommended twice seems very promising, and all your praise for her makes it sound so interesting. Kim mentioned everything I could have been interested in, especially that stand-offish mention, since I’m like that too and I want to read about characters like that and see how they handle it. And then wnedy mentioned that she couldn’t figure out how to write a review for it, and I was sold. Books that make you incapable of reviewing them are some of the best things.

    If I can recommend an indie, it would have to be Breakable by Aimee Salter. It broke my heart while I was reading over Christmas because it was such an accurate portrayal of bullying. I’ve seen in books how bullying is something that can be easily dealt with, but it’s not, and Breakable shows that so realistically it reminded me of myself. I never finished it because school started again and I got lazy to read on my Kindle, but oh my goodness, was it good. I may have not finished reading it but I’m just pushing people to read it every chance I get because it’s that good. It’s the most honest portrayal of bullying I’ve ever seen.
    Shannelle C. recently posted…The Perkins Project!

    • Wendy Darling

      Hah, I know–I wrote my recs and sent them to Tonya, and then I thought to myself, “I bet Kim would LOVE this book,” went to her GoodReads profile, and saw that she was reading it! And she loved it! I think Andrea Host is a huge, huge talent, and she deserves to be a read by a wider audience. And yess, I feel terribly ashamed that I haven’t managed to write a review for that book yet, but every time I think about the ending, I get a little misty. I totally agree that the ones that make you too choked up for words are usually the best ones.

      I haven’t heard of the Salter book! It sounds intense and heartbreaking. I find books on bullying really difficult to read sometimes, but I may have to check that out–it sounds like an incredibly emotional read. Thanks Shannelle!

    • Kim

      Yessssss read it. And see? This is exactly why I love a standoffish girl character! Representation! Doesn’t it feel great to get to identify with an MC for a change? It is so wonderfully affecting. *tear, tear* Ohhh I must check out Breakable. It sounds like it would be a tough read so I’d need to be in the mood but I will definitely look into it. Thanks for the rec!
      Kim recently posted…Guy in Real Life: Review

  18. Ashley Cavell

    I totally recommend Shelly Crane’s Significance series! It’s a fun YA paranormal series with really great characters. The plot line can be a little tedious (felt it could have been three books instead of four), but is still a quick and delightful read.
    Ashley Cavell recently posted…A Mate’s (Weak) Bite

    • Wendy Darling

      Thanks for the rec, Ashley! Hm, I think I might’ve tried the first book and it wasn’t quite my thing, but maybe I should give the sequels a try sometime. I know a lot of people who are huge fans of that series.